Gov. Edwards, Kopter Dedicate Lafayette Helicopter Assembly Site
LAFAYETTE, La. — On Saturday, March 9, Gov. John Bel Edwards joined CEO Andreas Löwenstein of Kopter Group AG, Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux, Secretary Don Pierson of Louisiana Economic Development, and other state, regional and local officials to celebrate Kopter’s selection of Lafayette for assembly of its SH09 helicopters.
The ribbon-cutting event followed Tuesday’s announcement at the world’s largest helicopter trade show in Atlanta that Lafayette had been selected by Kopter for production and support of its helicopters throughout the Western Hemisphere. Details were shared in a press release from Louisiana Economic Development.
Kopter’s manufacturing site will be located at the Lafayette Regional Airport, where the company will create 120 new direct jobs with an average annual salary of more than $55,000, plus benefits. In addition, the company will make a $4.2 million capital investment to modify and equip a state-of-the-art, 84,700-square-foot helicopter assembly building at the Lafayette airport. LED estimates the project will result in an additional 157 new indirect jobs, for a total or more than 275 new jobs in Acadiana and surrounding regions.
“Louisiana has a rich and storied history in the aerospace sector,” Gov. Edwards said. “From key defense installations like Barksdale Air Force Base in Northwest Louisiana and the Naval Air Station at Belle Chasse, to industrial aviation employers at Chennault International Airport and our leadership role in space missions at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility, we have proven ourselves as a state of innovation in the flight sector. Kopter Group’s selection of Lafayette for one of the world’s most advanced helicopter production projects secures an even stronger position for Louisiana in the aerospace industry. We welcome Kopter to Acadiana, and look forward to the positive momentum this project creates for Louisiana.”
Headquartered in Switzerland, Kopter Group has designed, engineered and tested a series of prototype helicopters that lay the foundation for production helicopters to be assembled in Lafayette. With technological innovations that include composite airframe parts, state-of-the-art avionics, enhanced safety features, room for up to eight passengers, and a payload of up to 6,600 pounds, the SH09 helicopter will be among the most competitive helicopters in its class.
“The Lafayette facility will become Kopter’s main hub for the U.S. and the Americas,” Löwenstein said. “It will include a large variety of activities, such as production, customization and assembly of our helicopters, as well as customer services. We expect to gradually hire up to 120 local personnel by 2025 to produce around 100 helicopters per year, and support the growing fleet in the region. A significant number of additional jobs should be generated through suppliers that will join us around the airport to create a true helicopter industry in Lafayette.”
With industry suppliers that include Kaman (composite parts), Garmin (avionics), Parker Aerospace (hydraulic pumps), Collins Aerospace (external lighting) and Honeywell (turboshaft engine), Kopter’s SH09 helicopters ultimately will be assembled in Lafayette with U.S.-sourced components representing at least 50 percent of the aircraft value.
“I am incredibly proud that Lafayette was Kopter’s choice for its newest helicopter assembly site,” Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux said. “This announcement comes at a pivotal time as we continue to work on the diversification of our economy. I’m grateful to Mr. Löwenstein for recognizing the opportunity that exists in Lafayette, and to Governor Edwards and Secretary Pierson for working with us at the local level to make this a reality.”
LED began formal discussions about the project with Kopter in October 2018. To secure the project, the State of Louisiana offered the company a competitive incentive package that includes a pair of performance-based grants: one of $1.2 million for facility modifications, payable at $200,000 in 2019 and $1 million in 2020; and one of $1.3 million for lease support, payable in five annual installments from 2020 through 2024. Kopter will lease the state-funded facility from the Lafayette Airport Commission.
Kopter also will receive the comprehensive workforce solutions of LED FastStart® – the nation’s No. 1 state workforce training program – and the company is expected to utilize Louisiana’s Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption programs.
“Today, Kopter is joining Acadiana’s well-established aviation sector that has served energy, training, and emergency services companies for decades,” said President and CEO Gregg Gothreaux of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority. “The state-of-the-art facility at Lafayette Regional Airport that will be Kopter’s new home will undoubtedly be a showpiece for the company. Aviation plays a significant part in the region’s targeted industry strategy; and, we are excited about the quality employment opportunities Kopter will provide for our experienced aviation and manufacturing workforce.”
Kopter designed the SH09 to suit a variety of aerospace missions: medical evacuation; surveillance and law enforcement; passenger transport and sightseeing; aerial work; and utility missions, among others. In addition to Louisiana’s aerospace legacy in the defense, space exploration and fixed-wing aviation sectors, the state features an abundance of helicopter sector companies, including offshore energy transportation leaders Bristow Group, Era Helicopters, PHI Inc. and RLC; technical support leader Arrow Aviation; and medical air transport leader Metro Aviation.
“Kopter’s decision to establish this strategically important production and support center in Acadiana is evidence of our region’s reputation as a hub of manufacturing excellence,” said President and CEO Troy Wayman of One Acadiana. “Kopter’s exciting and innovative entry into the rotor wing market will serve as a strong anchor for Acadiana’s aviation sector. We are particularly proud to share this historic announcement with them as they establish a U.S. presence in Acadiana.”
At its14.7-acre Lafayette Regional Airport site, Kopter will begin hiring later this year, with formal helicopter assembly activity and deliveries scheduled to begin in 2021. Production will ramp up to an anticipated annual volume of 100 helicopters by 2025.