February 28, 2013
By David Bauerlein
Jacksonville finally landed an airplane assembly plant when the Air Force awarded a hotly contested contract to a consortium that will assemble planes at Jacksonville International Airport.
Sierra Nevada Corp. of Sparks, Nev., and Embraer, based in Brazil, will build the A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, creating 50 jobs here.
“Amid all the concern over federal budget cuts, this is some good news for Jacksonville,” U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said Wednesday in an email from his office.
The light attack support aircraft will be used by the Afghanistan military.
Sierra Nevada said the initial order for 20 planes has a contract value of $427.5 million. Future orders could drive up the contract to around $950 million, according to U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla.
Crenshaw said the contract “underscores the deep confidence by our military that Jacksonville continues to be a military aviation center of excellence.”
The Air Force originally selected Sierra Nevada for the contract in late 2011 but later pulled that award after Hawker Beechcraft, a rival for the work, went to court, contending it was wrongly excluded from the competition.
The Air Force then reopened the contract and came to the same decision in favor of Sierra Nevada’s package. Hawker Beechcraft would have built the planes in Wichita, Kan.
Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown has met with Embraer officials in Brazil and gone to Washington to press the case for Jacksonville being the place for the plane assembly.
“Today’s success was a real team effort,” Brown said Wednesday night.
The Jacksonville Aviation Authority has been doing $1.1 million of renovations to a vacant hangar where Embraer will do the final assembly of the planes.
The city and state previously approved $150,000 in financial incentives tied to creation of 50 jobs with an average salary of $49,500.
The planes would start rolling out Jacksonville in summer 2014 at a rate of two planes per month.
Jacksonville has several growing aviation companies, but the Super Tucano contract will mark the first full-scale plane assembly operation in the city.
The components of the Super Tucano will be built at 100 companies in 20 states, creating a total of about 1,400 jobs, according to Sierra Nevada.
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