July 24, 2010

BNAS to host plane plant

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA -- A new company is coming to Brunswick with the promise of up to 300 jobs in the coming years.

click image to enlarge

Kestrel Aircraft Co. Chief Executive Officer Alan Klapmeier speaks in front of a prototype six- to eight-passenger plane Friday during an Augusta State Airport news conference held to welcome the new company to Maine.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

click image to enlarge

Kestrel Aircraft Co. Chief Executive Officer Alan Klapmeier speaks in front of a prototype six- to eight-passenger plane during an Augusta State Airport news conference Friday to welcome the new company to Maine.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Kestrel Aircraft Co. in Brunswick:
• Initial number of jobs: 50-70 engineers
• Total jobs projected by 2015: 300
• Investment: $100 million
• Location: Brunswick Naval Air Station, which will be decommissioned in May 2011

Kestrel Aircraft Co. is developing a composite turboprop aircraft called the Kestrel. Gov. John Baldacci, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, and others stood in front of a prototype six- to eight-passenger plane at an Augusta State Airport news conference Friday to welcome the new company to Maine.

Kestrel will be located at Hangar 6 at Brunswick Naval Air Station. The base is being decommissioned in May 2011.

"We know the Department of Defense made the wrong decision in closing the base," Baldacci said, "but at every step along the way, we've tried to position the community, the region to try to hit the ground running."

The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority voted Friday morning to approve a lease agreement with the company, which plans to bring 50 to 70 engineering jobs as it seeks certification for the aircraft.

Kestrel will build six or seven test planes, which also will create some manufacturing jobs early on, said Steve Levesque, executive director of the redevelopment authority.

The certification process could take three years or more, Kestrel Chief Executive Officer Alan Klapmeier said. Once the plane is certified, the company plans to hire an additional 250 workers to manufacture the aircraft.

The company will invest more than $100 million and the state already has agreed to lend $10 million in economic development bond money to help with startup costs, Levesque said.

Kestrel also has begun the process of applying for tax benefits under the state's Pine Tree Zone program, said James Nimon, senior economic adviser to Baldacci.

For 10 years, the company will be eligible to get up to 80 percent off income taxes collected and would pay no corporate income taxes for the first five years, he said. For the next five years, the company would pay 50 percent of its corporate income taxes.

Also, the company would be exempt from the sales tax for 10 years.

"The point is to try to be as tax-free as possible for the first 10 years," he said.

Last year Klapmeier left Cirrus Design, a company he founded in 1984, to "pursue other aircraft development ventures," according to a company news release.

The Kestrel seeks to fill a niche in the aircraft industry by bridging "the traditional gap between turboprops and substantially more expensive business jets," according to the company.

Klapmeier said he didn't try to start a bidding war among states competing for the company's business. The company chose Maine in large part because there is "experience with composites," he said.

"We said, 'Where do we want to be? What do we need to have? And let's talk to those places and figure out what it would take to get a project done,' " he said.

He said the state's work force was also a draw.

"There's a great work force, great productivity work ethic; and that's what it takes to finish this airplane," he said.

In 2005, the federal government announced it would close the air station, which is now being marketed as Brunswick Landing.

Kestrel is the first major business to announce it will locate at the air base. Last year, the state community college system said it would open a branch there.

 

Susan Cover -- 620-7015

scover@mainetoday.com

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