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News alert: Bell to build helicopter assembly plant in Lafayette

After what it termed a highly competitive, multi-state site-selection process, Bell Helicopters announced today that it has chosen Lafayette as the location for a plant that will assemble its new line of SLS helicopters, the contemporary version of Bell's industry-standard JetRanger. Bell will invest $11.4 million in equipment and tooling, according to a statement from LED. The plant will create 115 new direct jobs at an average annual salary of $55,000 each, plus benefits. LED estimates the project will mean another 136 additional permanent, indirect jobs. "Today's announcement signals that Louisiana is ready to further expand its presence and leadership in the aerospace industry," Gov. Bobby Jindal says in the statement. Jindal notes that Louisiana is an ideal place to assemble finished helicopters. "Companies in our state include three of the largest civilian helicopter operators in the world, along with aerospace production from contractors like Lockheed Martin and Boeing," he says. The plant is particularly significant because it represents investment in an operation that will make a finished product in Louisiana rather than manufacturing feedstocks for further processing or assembly out of state. To land the project, the state is providing Bell an incentive package that includes performance-based grants of $4 million for lease support, $3.8 million for infrastructure and equipment, and $200,000 for relocation reimbursement. Bell will lease space for its new assembly operation in a new $26.3 million hangar facility at Lafayette Regional Airport that is being funded by the state and is under development. Bell is expected to begin building helicopters in the hangar by 2016. -Staff report

View the article online via Baton Rouge Business Report's website.