LAFAYETTE, La. (The Daily Advertiser) – Bell Helicopter has committed to operating in Lafayette for the next two years.
In his report to the commission on Wednesday, Lafayette Regional Airport Executive Director Steven Picou said the company is about to begin modifications to the 82,300-square-foot manufacturing facility.
The facility was designed to be a manufacturing center for Bell’s 505 Jet X Ranger helicopter. The state paid $26.3 million to build the airport-owned assembly center, which celebrated its grand opening in August.
Bell has been leasing the facility and committed to making an additional $11.5 million capital investment in equipment and tooling.
In May, Bell announced that it was pulling its 505 Ranger X helicopter operation from Lafayette and moving it to Canada. Company President and CEO Mitch Snyder blamed a struggling market on the decision to move the operation but said Bell remains “committed to Lafayette.”
In an effort to keep that commitment, the company is moving its Bell 525 Relentless cabin sub-assembly from Amarillo, Texas, to Lafayette.
That process is underway, Picou said Wednesday.
“That will start up soon. They are actually refitting the building,” he told the commission. “They are gearing up to do modifications inside of the building. The 525 that will be here is a much larger helicopter than 505.”
He said some 525 Relentless helicopter manufacturing will occur in Lafayette and then be shipped back to Amarillo. He said the company is still in the process of assessing its local staffing.
“Just in the sheer size of this aircraft, that is going to be the only aircraft that is going to be built here in Lafayette,” Picou said. “Because of this, they are going to extend their contract with the state for the next two years. So monetarily for the airport, there is no change, just some changes in the building and use.”