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Superior lands 600 aviation jobs
January 19, 2012
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  • January 16, 2012 By Shelley Nelson
    Kestrel Aircraft Company wants to revolutionize general aviation, and Superior is the place it’s going to happen.
    Gov. Scott Walker and Kestrel chief executive officer Alan Klapmeier made the announcement about the company’s plans today at the Richard I. Bong Airport in Superior.
    The company plans to invest about $120 million in Superior to create 600 jobs.
    Not since World War II has this number of jobs been created in Superior, said Dave Minor, Chamber president and chief executive officer.
    “Alan Klapmeier and his Kestrel team have a vision for their company, and I am delighted that they have decided to land their vision here in Superior,” Mayor Bruce Hagen said.
    “There were a number of locations that would have worked from a business standpoint,” Klapmeier said after the official announcement. “It was really just a matter of working with the different communities and getting together the package that was necessary.”
    The current state of the economy has made it difficult to get a project like this going, the CEO said.
    City officials, working with the county, state and Douglas County development team managed to pull the project together in just less than six months.
    It was July 19 when officials first started talking to Klapmeier about locating the company in Superior.
    Since that time, the county development team and state agencies managed to assemble land near the airport and the Winter Street Industrial Park and put together finances needed to get the project up and running.
    Construction on the first facility in the Winter Street Industrial Park is expected to get underway in June on the 35,000 square foot facility where composite materials for the plane would be manufactured, Klapmeier told the city’s Redevelopment Authority. The authority today approved a cooperation agreement between the city and the county for land near the airport for the project, and a development agreement between the city and Kestrel Aircraft this afternoon.
    Construction on the airport facilities is expected to begin next year near the airport, where the planes will be assembled, on the northern portion of the fairgrounds.
    The city and county agreement provides 13.3 acres of land on the northeast portion of the fairgrounds for the first of what could be a four-phase project down the road.
    The financial package for the aircraft manufacturing facility includes the use and creation of $3.1 million in tax increment financing and a $2.4 million low-interest loan through the city of Superior, and the transfer or county owned land adjacent to the Bong Airport and a $500,000 loan through the Douglas County Revolving Loan Fund.
    The state plans to participate in the project in a big way, with $30 million in New Market Tax Credits in 2012, $60 million in future allocations, plus a $2 million loan through the state’s Small Business Credit Initiative Program through Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is adding $18 million in Enterprise Zone Tax Credits and a $2 million economic development loan to the pot.
    Klapmeier said he expects the $90 million New Market credits, which are sold to investors, to create about $28 million in capital for the project.
    Walker said the creation of the economic development corporation from the former Department of Commerce created an opportunity for the state to “move at the speed of business” rather than the speed of government, helping to facilitate today’s announcement.
    “This is a great opportunity for us today,” the governor said. “We’re talking about 600 jobs in a community that obviously this part of the state needs jobs É so the fact that it’s right here in Superior is even more special.”
    It was the single largest number of jobs created since the governor took office. The closest was 469 jobs announced in Sturdevant, Wis., a couple of months ago, he said.
    “This hopefully is the first of many steps to adding many new jobs,” Walker said.
    While the company plans to create 600 new jobs by 2016, the governor said it creates opportunity for support businesses and additional jobs to be created in the future.
    In the end, it was the Douglas County development team – officials with Superior and Douglas County, Superior Business Improvement District, Development Association, Chamber of Superior-Douglas County and Jim Caesar, an economic development consultant – that “were always able to keep the ball moving forward,” Klapmeier said.
    Now the company’s decision is in the hands of the Superior City Council and Douglas County Board. Tonight, the council considers adopting the agreements approved by the Redevelopment Authority, and Thursday, the board considers the cooperation agreement with the city.

    Date: 2012-01-16