October 14, 2010
By Alton K. Marsh
County officials overcame risk concerns and have approved a deal that allows German-based Extra Aircraft to assemble EA–500 six-passenger single-engine turboprop aircraft in Montrose, Colo. The fuselage halves and completed wing will be made in Germany and shipped to Montrose. The molds will remain in Germany.
The county will build a 25,000-square-foot hangar and other improvements—estimated in one report as costing $2 million—on existing land at Montrose Regional Airport and lease it to Extra. The $2 million figure would include taxiways, ramps, parking, and other onsite improvements. Details are still to be negotiated.
If Extra should falter, the county still has a property that can be leased to a new tenant. While the hangar is under construction, Extra will use a temporary 6,000-square-foot hangar.
A second and key portion of the deal is a plan by the Montrose Economic Development Corp. to sell land it already holds for $1.5 million, and give that amount to Extra for startup costs.
The deal should not be considered as completed, as there are key negotiations on details remaining. “Please keep in mind that Montrose County is only one entity in the equation. There is also the City of Montrose, Region 10, MEDC which stands for Montrose Economic Development Corporation, and the State of Colorado’s Economic Development Office,” said a county spokeswoman. The Region 10 government is providing a working loan while the state is offering a training grant based on the number of workers hired.
Extra Aircraft CEO Ken Keith said the aircraft could be certified in the United States early next year. It is already certified in Europe and will be certified by the FAA under a reciprocal agreement. The first aircraft could roll out the door as early as next spring, Keith said.
Keith said his next task is to hire five or six key management people and get them trained in Germany on the product. They will initially hire 20 to 25 workers who will assemble the first aircraft. They will mate the fuselage halves, install flight controls, electrical systems and mechanical systems, and install the engine.
Keith said the agreement means hundreds of jobs for Montrose and more jobs at the plant in Germany. “It’s been a long road to get here,” Keith said.
Included in the approved arrangement is the agreement to build additional square footage as Extra’s sales demand increases over time. Keith said he has received almost 400 employment applications from the community.
“We have all worked together to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. Now we are excited to start the process of opening up in Montrose,” Keith said.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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