Bombardier Learjet marked the expansion of its Wichita facilities with a groundbreaking ceremony
(Wichita Eagle, May 1, 2012) Bombardier Learjet marked the expansion of its Wichita facilities with a groundbreaking ceremony Monday under overcast skies. City, county and state officials, employees and others turned out for the event, near Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.
The $52.7 million project will help the site make room for Bombardier’s newest business jet, the Learjet 85, and is expected to add 450 jobs at the facility.
“Fifty years ago, Bill Lear arrived here to the Air Capital of the World with an innovative vision – the very first business jet,” said Ralph Acs, vice president and general manager of Bombardier Learjet. "We’re honored that the legacy of Learjet continues, and we have a very bright future."
Sen. Jerry Moran praised Bombardier Learjet leaders and Wichita’s educational system and research capabilities.“I think aviation has a bright future,” Moran said.
Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said that Wichita’s greatest asset is the excellence of its aviation workforce.
“This project – code name Project Excellence – takes advantage of our strength in aeronautical engineering, flight testing and information technology,” Brewer said. “Our talent pool is deep. And just like it was when Bill Lear first came to Wichita, our workforce is the main reason that Wichita is still the best place to build airplanes.”
The expansion is the largest in the company’s history in Wichita. It includes a Flight Test Center, the establishment of Bombardier Centers of Excellence for Engineering and Information Technology, new facilities for paint and production flight testing, a new delivery center and parking lots.
Monday’s groundbreaking was for a new parking lot to replace the current parking areas, which will be used to make room for the new delivery center, production finish and paint facility.
So far, the company has vacated and expanded a production hangar to take on final assembly work on the Learjet 85, a composite, eight-passenger, intercontinental airplane.
In mid-2010, Bombardier announced a new Wichita assembly site for the Learjet 85, which would sustain or create 600 jobs in exchange for about $27 million in bond financing from the state. The company also agreed not to move any existing operations out of Wichita during the life of the bonds.
In January, the state approved another $16 million in bonds for the project in a second round of financing. The city of Wichita and Sedgwick County each approved $1 million.
The expansion will be completed in 2014.
Bombardier launched the Learjet 85 program in 2007.
The plant stores, prepares, crushes and extracts oil from soybeans. Cargill has soybean meal and soybean oil customers throughout Kansas and the region as well as export markets.
“This project will improve efficiencies and insure reliability of Cargill’s service to its animal feeding and soybean oil customers for years to come,” said Cary Humphries, general manager of the Cargill Grain & Oilseed Supply Chain facility. “We intend to have the improvements made in time for the 2010 fall soybean harvest.”
Cargill employs 45 people at the facility and more than 1,250 in Wichita.
“We are fortunate as a community to have Cargill as a leading business and corporate citizen,” said Mayor Carl Brewer. “We are eager to have them invest in all their operations here and are glad they are choosing to upgrade the oilseed plant.”
Sedgwick County Chairman Karl Peterjohn said, “Helping our businesses remain competitive in today’s world and keeping them here is important to our community. As a successful, global company, Cargill has choices and we’re glad they chose Sedgwick County.”
The Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition (GWEDC) has been working with Cargill on the retention project. Cargill may make use of tax-exempt Recovery Zone Facility Bonds from the state to help finance the project. It is working with the Kansas Department of Commerce and the City of Wichita and Sedgwick County on the bonds.
“This project reflects our commitment to our employees, customers and to Wichita, Sedgwick County and Kansas,” Humphries said. “This will help the plant remain competitive within the industry and within our organization.”
The original facility was built in 1940, and Cargill acquired it in 1961. Much of the soybean oil is processed at the Cargill Dressings, Sauces & Oils NA refinery at 1416 N. Barwise. Other Cargill businesses in Wichita are Horizon Milling and Cargill Meat Solutions.