David Chapman, Staff Writer
January 3, 2012
Embraer officials are expected in Jacksonville this week to provide more details about the long-awaited deal to assemble the Super Tucano military aircraft at Jacksonville International Airport, creating 50 jobs. The contract to build the planes was approved last week by the U.S. Department of Defense. A year ago, City Council approved incentives for the project, which promised an average salary of $49,500, plus benefits.
Jerry Mallot, president of the JAXUSA Partnership economic development division of JAX Chamber, said he believes the deal could be the harbinger of more development by Embraer in Jacksonville.
“We do believe it’s a tip of the iceberg for Embraer,” Mallot said. “We are dealing with a great company.”
Mallot said the deal was not so much about the number of jobs but the result of bringing a company that will, for the first time, “assemble, build and send off” military planes.
The $355 million defense contract was awarded to Sierra Nevada Corp. It will partner with Embraer, based in Brazil, to build the single-engine turboprop planes at a 40,000-square foot hangar at Jacksonville International Airport.
Last January, City Council approved a Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund of $150,000 for Embraer contingent upon the contract. Under the QTI, the City will refund $30,000 and the state will be responsible for $120,000.
Embraer’s main competition for the contract, Wichita, Kan.-based Hawker Beechcraft, filed suit against the U.S. government Tuesday over its exclusion, according to The Wichita Eagle newspaper.
Hawker Beechcraft was excluded from the competition in a “pre-award exclusion” according to the newspaper, and Hawker officials are trying to learn the reason.
Mallot said the suit would likely have no effect on Embraer’s award and such protests are “almost automatic” from companies that do not win.
Mallot said the difference in this case is that the company cannot file a protest and instead has to take a different avenue through the courts.
“We’re not worried because Embraer had the best product,” Mallot said.
Mayor Alvin Brown called the award announcement “great economic news for Jacksonville” and cited efforts to make the city “the most military and business-friendly city in the United States.”
Embraer is expected to generate an annual payroll of about $2.5 million and invest $1.8 million in assembly equipment, according to Joe Whitaker, Jacksonville Economic Development Commission targeted industries coordinator, in his presentation last year to the Council Finance Committee.
“Bring us some more,” said then committee Chair Warren Jones.