At a time when sequestration looms and aircraft maintenance jobs are already seeing cuts, the city of Enterprise was proud to announce a majority of those jobs could be brought back into the community.
The passage of a resolution by councilmembers during a Nov. 19 council meeting put into motion the final steps of negotiations between the city and Brightwater Aviation.
The company is expected to bring 200 aircraft maintenance jobs into Enterprise at an average wage of $24 an hour.
The Chicago-based company plans to build a $12 million hangar at the Enterprise Municipal Airport.
Boswell said Enterprise was selected due to an already present workforce.
“Employment is relatively easy to get here, and if you’ll look at the overall (United States) survey of aviation hourly wages, we’re still one of the lowest in the United States,” Boswell said, “so it was just a good fit. The chemistry was right and it made their decision a little easier than it normally would be.”
The approved resolution provides the company with a $3.5 million loan from the city to cover some of the cost of constructing the 60,000-square-foot facility, which will be leased to Alabama Aircraft Support.
Boswell said the loan would be paid back to the city over a 40-year period at a 4 percent interest rate, which will be placed back into other future economic development projects.
Once the loan is paid, the city will own the building.
Attorney Aileen Thomas with the Jones Walker Law Firm addressed the council
saying a new market tax credit program allows the city to make the $3.5 million investment.
“The way the project is structured is that the city will lease the property to the project and at the end of the lease term the city will own the land and also the $12 million hangar,” Thomas said.
The funds for the $3.5 million loan come from a $12 million bond issue the city received earlier this year.
Of the $12 million, the city set aside $7.5 million for economic development projects.
Boswell said this particular project is something the city has been working on for quite some time.
Once construction gets under way, the project should be completed within 12-18 months.
The hangar will have 50,000 square-feet of production hangar space and 10,000 square-feet of administrative space.
The final negotiations include specifics on what the building will possess.
“We will own that building in the end so it’s very important that we build that building because it’s going to be the citizens’ asset,” Boswell said. “(We want to) make it as attractive as we can for long term future development of the airport. So if we set that criteria now it’ll make it easier.”
Boswell said the end goal is to build something that is economically feasible for the company while also being a long-term asset for the city.
Alabama Aircraft Support will focus on the refurbishment of aircraft both from the Department of State helicopters and military aircraft returning from overseas.
Boswell said the hangar would serve as a maintenance repair operation station.
“Their primary contract is with the Department of State,” Boswell said, adding that includes work on Hueys and avionic conversions for future air ambulance service helicopters, possible fixed-wing aircraft and other projects.
“Diversification means a great deal to (Alabama Aircraft Support),” Boswell said. “They don’t want to be set in stone for any particular aircraft. They want to be to where they can work on any and all aircraft.”
The total economic impact for Enterprise could be as much as $10 million annually.
“It’s a good project for our city and it’s a good project for our citizens, especially with the sequester and what is looming out there and the possibility of the loss of jobs from AFS (Army Fleet Support),” Boswell said. “For us to be able to absorb those jobs here in our city and continue those families’ ability to work here in our area means a great deal.”
Boswell said he looks forward to building a long-term relationship with Alabama Aircraft Support.
A formal announcement could take place sometime in the near future, Boswell said.
Boswell thanked Gov. Robert Bentley and the Department of Commerce, led by Greg Canfield, and the work of Bob Smith in the Department of Commerce office for their help in bringing the project to fruition.
“Gov. Bentley is a true asset to the state and a true asset to the city. He understands what jobs mean and he understands the economy in the state and he understands what this meant to the city of Enterprise and the surrounding region,” Boswell said. “This place is going to employ people from Ozark, Dothan, Elba and the surrounding area and it’s something that is hopefully everyone is happy to see land in the region.”