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Bell Helicopter opens new manufacturing plant in Louisiana

Bell Helicopter’s new 82,300-square-foot facility was built on 14.5 acres at the Lafayette Regional Airport by the state of Louisiana.
Bell Helicopter’s new 82,300-square-foot facility was built on 14.5 acres at the Lafayette Regional Airport by the state of Louisiana.

Bell Helicopter on Thursday celebrated the opening of a new $26 million manufacturing plant in Lafayette, La., where it will build its new Bell 505 Jet Ranger X commercial helicopter.

The 82,300-square-foot hangar facility was built on 14.5 acres at the Lafayette Regional Airport, paid for by the state of Louisiana. Bell will lease the facility from the airport and plans to invest $11.4 million in equipment and tooling.

The plant is expected to employ 115 people.

“We’re proud that Louisiana’s rapidly improving business climate, our outstanding workforce and our unmatched quality of life led Bell Helicopter to make Louisiana its state of choice for this aerospace project, which will benefit our people for generations to come,” Gov. Bobby Jindal said in a statement.

Not to mention the money coughed up by the state to build the plant.

The five-seat, single-engine turbine 505 is a contemporary version of the JetRanger, built by the company more than 50 years ago. Bell says it has received more than 350 letters of intent from around the globe for the helicopter.

The new product is significant for Bell, which has been forced to significantly reduce its workforce in recent years due to soft commercial sales and declining production of its V-22 tilt-rotor for the military.

In April, the company announced it would trim 1,100 jobs, including about 600 in Fort Worth, where the company has consolidated its operations at its renovated headquarters complex along Texas 10.

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