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Governor announces new helicopter plant coming to Lafayette

Posted at 1:10 PM, Mar 05, 2019

Today in Atlanta, Gov. John Bel Edwards and CEO Andreas Löwenstein of Kopter Group AG announced the Switzerland-based helicopter maker will assemble its new SH09 helicopter in Lafayette for customers throughout the Americas.

The executives announced Kopter’s selection of Louisiana in Atlanta, where 18,000 industry professionals and 700 exhibitors are taking part in the 2019 HAI Heli-Expo.

In Louisiana, the Kopter Production and Product Support Center will deliver SH09 models throughout the Western Hemisphere and source parts representing at least 50 percent of aircraft value from U.S. suppliers. Kopter will lease an 84,700-square-foot facility from the Lafayette Regional Airport, which owns the state-of-the-art helicopter assembly building on Evangeline Thruway.

The build is the former Bell Helicopter space in the building owned by the Lafayette airport.

According to the Governor’s Office, Kopter will create 120 new direct jobs in Lafayette with an average annual salary of $55,000, plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project will result in another 157 new indirect jobs, for a total of more than 275 new jobs in Acadiana. The company plans to make a $4.2 million capital investment in new equipment and building additions at the Lafayette site.

“We’re delighted that Kopter chose Louisiana and Lafayette for the assembly of a dynamic new aerospace product,” Gov. Edwards said. “The SH09 helicopter will be highly competitive in the marketplace and provide outstanding performance, great passenger and cargo capacity, and superior engineering and design. Kopter could have chosen any location in the Western Hemisphere to assemble this new helicopter. Louisiana’s outstanding workforce and facility assets, and our competitive business climate, make Lafayette the clear choice for Kopter’s future in the Americas.”

Founded in 2007 to deliver a new generation of turbine helicopters, Kopter designed the SH09 with large cabin and cargo volumes, next-generation electronic systems, and technical specifications that meet the most demanding missions. Kopter is assembling helicopters for the European market in Switzerland, with plans to add a third assembly facility in Asia.

“Kopter Group chose the Lafayette site for several reasons,” Löwenstein said. “First, because Louisiana, which is a rapidly growing and attractive region, already hosts several key helicopter operators and many industrial players. Second, for the easy access to a qualified workforce and a high-quality educational environment. And third, for the facility itself – which meets the highest standards and allows almost instant operations. Its location on the airport provides an ideal operational environment, with quick and easy logistics and commercial access.”

The State of Louisiana funded construction of the $25.3 million facility on a 14.7-acre airport site, which the company will lease from the Lafayette Airport Commission. The company will begin initial hiring later this year, and formal helicopter deliveries will start in 2021. Production will ramp up to an anticipated volume of 100 helicopters by 2025.

By design, Kopter created the SH09 to suit a variety of missions: medical evacuation; surveillance and law enforcement; passenger transport and sightseeing; aerial work; and utility missions. The SH09 offers enhanced safety features and new technology that supersedes decades-old platforms found on competitor models. Technological innovations include composite airframe parts from Kaman; the first adoption of Garmin’s new avionics suite; hydraulic pumps from Parker Aerospace; external lighting from Collins Aerospace; and the new Honeywell HTS900 turboshaft engine with increased power output, enhanced fuel consumption and lighter weight.

“It took a lot of hard work by Governor Edwards, Louisiana Economic Development, Lafayette Airport Commission and airport staff to make this partnership a reality in a very short time,” said Chairman Paul Segura of the Lafayette Airport Commission. “Lafayette just gained a major international opportunity housed at our airport, and this means good things for our economic future.”

LED began formal discussions about the project with Kopter in October 2018. To secure the project, the State of Louisiana offered the company a competitive incentive package that includes a pair of performance-based grants: one of $1.2 million for facility modifications, payable at $200,000 in 2019 and $1 million in 2020; and one of $1.3 million for lease support, payable in five annual installments from 2020 through 2024.

Kopter also will receive the comprehensive workforce solutions of LED FastStart® – the nation’s No. 1 state workforce training program – and the company is expected to utilize Louisiana’s Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption programs.

Louisiana’s accomplishments in the aerospace sector include assembly of major components for NASA space flight missions since the 1960s, and continuing through current Space Launch System assembly led by Boeing and Orion spacecraft assembly led by Lockheed Martin at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Kopter joins a growing list of helicopter sector companies in Louisiana, including offshore energy transportation leaders Bristow Group, Era Helicopters, PHI Inc. and RLC; technical support leader Arrow Aviation; and medical air transport leader Metro Aviation.

Kopter Group develops, produces and supports a new generation of single-engine helicopters. Its first model – the SH09 – outperforms its peers with increased modularity, modern electronic systems, and a larger cabin and cargo hold. The SH09 delivers safety, performance and comfort at low-operating costs. It is built for missions accomplished, from the most demanding to the everyday. Kopter Group’s 300 talented team members are based in Switzerland, with corporate and engineering offices close to Zurich, and the production and assembly facilities in the cities of Mollis and Näfels.