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Jindal and Bell Helicopter announce new facility in Lafayette

Company will create 115 jobs and invest $11.4 million in equipment and tooling


Bell Helicopter plans to open a $26 million helicopter assembly plant at Lafayette Regional Airport that will create 115 jobs.

Gov. Bobby Jindal and Bell Helicopter CEO John Garrison made the announcement Tuesday at the Lafayette Economic Development Authority. Bell will invest $11.4 million in equipment and tooling.

The company wants to build Short Light Single helicopters, which are higher-tech versions of the JetRanger aircraft that Fort Worth, Texas-based Bell launched 50 years ago.

SLS helicopters can be used for civilian and business commuter travel.

The 82,300-square-foot facility will be on airport property near U.S. Highway 90. Construction starts in the first half of 2014. Hiring is expected to begin in 2015.

The facility is expected to open in 2016.

Jindal said Louisiana put together an $8 million incentive package for Bell, including $3.8 million for infrastructure. Louisiana has offered to train local residents via FastStart and ready them to work for Bell when its plant opens.

Jindal said the plant will create 115 "direct jobs" with salaries that average more than $55,000 annually. It also will create 136 new "permanent indirect jobs" and 60 construction jobs.

"Louisiana told Bell it would help provide a turnkey workforce through training," LEDA president Gregg Gothreaux said. "Someone with a high school diploma who is hard-working should be able to complete the training successfully.

"A person wouldn't need an aviation background to get a good-paying job with Bell after training."

This will be the company's second facility in the area; Bell also is building another plant in Broussard.

In return for the incentives, Bell must hit goals for hiring local workers and paying them well, Gothreaux said. Bell would be required to repay the money if it fails to meet those goals.

Lafayette Airport Commissioner Paul Segura said Lafayette worked hard to beat Alabama as the production site for its five-seat, single-engine, turbine helicopter. The 82,300 square foot facility will be on airport property near Highway 90.

"Bell has a ready-made customer base in the oil and gas industry here," Segura told The Daily Advertiser. "Acadian Ambulance is another great customer for Bell located right here."

View The Daily Advertiser article here .