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Bell Helicopter Plans $11.4 Million Assembly Facility At Lafayette, Louisiana, Regional Airport

Bell Helicopter will establish an assembly facility at Lafayette, Louisiana, Regional Airport, where the firm will produce its new SLS helicopter. Bell will invest $11.4 million in equipment and tooling, creating 115 new jobs in the region.

The firm will lease space for its SLS assembly operation in a new 82,300-square-foot, $26.3 million hangar facility at Lafayette Regional Airport that is being funded by the State of Louisiana. The new hangar facility will be owned by Lafayette Regional Airport and built on a 14.5-acre site there that is located adjacent to U.S. Highway 90. Construction will begin in the first half of 2014. Bell will begin hiring employees for the new facility by 2015, and assembly operations will start by 2016 following certification of the facility and the aircraft.

“Bell Helicopter defined the short light single market nearly 50 years ago with the JetRanger, and our customers are again asking for a high-performance, high-value Bell product in this category,” said Bell Helicopter CEO John Garrison. “We have taken this challenge seriously and are focused on delivering an aircraft that is not only competitively priced, but offers features and capabilities customers have come to expect from Bell Helicopter. We considered several sites for this new facility, and Louisiana’s proposal demonstrated the state’s commitment to economic development. The state’s established aerospace industry and exceptional workforce training programs were also key factors in our decision to make Louisiana a partner in expanding our manufacturing footprint.”

In addition to creating 115 new jobs at its SLS assembly facility, Bell Helicopter will maintain 63 existing jobs in the Lafayette area associated with two existing facilities involved with helicopter components and service operations.

Gov. Bobby Jindal said, “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.

Along with the LED, The Lafayette Economic Development Authority and the Lafayette Airport Commission also played key roles in landing the assembly facility. To secure the project, the State of Louisiana offered a competitive incentive package that includes performance-based grants of $4 million for lease support, $3.8 million for infrastructure and equipment, and $200,000 to reimburse relocation expenses. Louisiana also will provide the comprehensive solutions of LED FastStart.

“LEDA has actively worked with various divisions of Bell since 2005,” LEDA President and CEO Gregg Gothreaux said. “Along with a new Bell facility currently under construction in LEDA Industrial Park, today’s announcement further demonstrates Bell’s confidence in Lafayette, Acadiana and Louisiana. The fact that this will be the first aircraft final assembly plant in Louisiana in many generations emphasizes Bell’s commitment and belief that our community’s workforce will deliver a world-class product in a world-class manner.

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