Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Steve Ridolfi, president of Bombardier Business Aircraft, jointly announced plans to expand the company’s Learjet 85 production facility in Wichita, with the promise of 450 jobs being added over the next seven to 10 years.
“This great day for Wichita and Kansas highlights the strength and vibrancy of the Air Capital of the World,” said Brownback in a Jan. 10 event covered live by local media at the Bombardier facility. “Our workforce, supplier base, infrastructure, research and development, and aviation training assets are second to none and today’s announcement says that loud and clear. We value the strong commitment of Bombardier to Kansas and treasure this long-term, mutually beneficial relationship, which will lead to further opportunities and growth.”
Elements of the expansion, to be spurred by $16 million in state financial support, include enlarging the Bombardier Flight Test Center, establishing a Bombardier Center of Excellence of Engineering and Information Technology, new paint and production flight test facilities, and a new delivery center, said a company news release.
“This is great news and indicates the strength of our relationship with the State of Kansas,” said Ridolfi. “Learjet has a rich and solid history in Kansas and we are committed to ensuring that it continues to grow and prosper along with new programs such as the Learjet 85 aircraft .”
This state support augments Bombardier’s $600 million investment in developing the jet and expanding the Wichita facility, and follows up on a 2010 package that provided $27 million in bond financing for the Learjet initiative, in exchange, in part, for specific long-term commitments to Wichita by Bombardier.
Launched as a project in 2007, the eight-passenger composite jet was reported “on schedule” for entering service in 2013, the company said. In 2009, Bombardier had reduced its Learjet workforce in the city by more than 800 jobs as the economy slowed.
The announcement came as an upbeat development on the heels of reports that Boeing, which employs more than 2,000 workers in the Kansas city, planned to leave Wichita by 2013, and that Wichita was forming a community task force with a goal of devising “aggressive strategies” for reinvigorating the aviation industry in a city long known for its role in aircraft production.