Kopter SH09 (Photo by Dan Parsons)
ATLANTA — Kopter Group plans to build a new 84,700-square-foot manufacturing facility in Lafayette, Louisiana, where it will build up to 100 of its new SH09 light single-engine helicopters per year over the next decade.
The announcement was made by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and Kopter Chief Executive Andreas Löwenstein on March 5 at the Helicopter Association International’s HeliExpo conference here.
Located at Lafayette Airport, the new facility should be online by 2025 and create at least 120 skilled jobs. A video announcement by Kopter is available here.
“We are delighted that Kopter chose Louisiana and Lafayette for the assembly of a dynamic new aerospace product,” Edwards said. “The SH09 helicopter will be highly competitive in the marketplace and provide outstanding performance, great passenger and cargo capacity, and superior engineering and design. Kopter could have chosen any location in North America to assemble this new helicopter. Louisiana’s outstanding workforce and facility assets, and our competitive business climate, make Lafayette the clear choice for Kopter’s future in the Americas.”
Kopter will lease a 84,700 sq. ft. facility from the Lafayette Airport Commission, which owns the helicopter assembly buildings. Kopter’s future production and support center will complement existing Kopter sites in Switzerland and will serve customers throughout the Americas.
Eventually, the Louisiana site will source parts from U.S. suppliers and will account for up to half of all SH09 production, Löwenstein said.
The state of Louisiana initially funded construction of the $25.3 million Lafayette facility on a 14.7-acre airport site. Kopter plans to make additional capital investment in new equipment and building extensions. The company will begin hiring personnel later this year and prepare operations by mid-2020, with deliveries of locally-assembled helicopters to start in 2021. Kopter intends to create at least 120 new direct jobs by 2025 in Lafayette, while production should ramp up to an anticipated volume of around 100 SH09 per year.
“Kopter Group chose the Lafayette site for several reasons,” Löwenstein said. “First, because of Louisiana, which is a rapidly growing and attractive region and already hosting several key helicopter operators and many industrial players. Second, for the easy access to a qualified workforce and a high-quality educational environment. And third, for the facility itself, which meets the highest standards and allows almost instant operations. Its location on the airport provides an ideal production environment, with quick and easy logistics and commercial access.”
In the framework of a thorough site selection process, Kopter Group conducted formal discussions with Louisiana Economic Development (LED) for several months. To secure the project, the state of Louisiana offered the company a competitive incentive package.
Kopter joins now a growing list of companies active in the helicopter sector in Louisiana, including offshore operators Bristow Group, Era Helicopters, PHI and RLC and the medical air transport leader Metro Aviation.
This major step for Kopter’s development in the US follows the formation in July 2018 of a fully-owned U.S. subsidiary, Kopter North America.