Friday, February 13, 2015

Mayor Ness calling on state funding for multi-million dollar Cirrus expansion

DULUTH, Minn. ( -- Cirrus aircraft in Duluth has announced they're expanding operations both on, and off, the runway, which would bring more jobs to the region, and help secure Cirrus's place in the world aviation market. 

City leaders are now asking state lawmakers for $4 million to help the expansion soar to new heights.

Cirrus's expansion project has two main components.

The company is already in the process of moving some of its features that don't depend on having the Duluth International Airport runway into a new building along the Miller Trunk Highway.

Cirrus CEO Dale Klapmeier says that will make room for a new completion facility on–site, that would pump out the company's Vision jet.

Klapmeier says they already have over 500 advanced orders for the plane.

"We expect to see customer deliveries within the next year, and then the growth path to meet those demands is what determines that timeline for the building," said Klapmeier during the announcement Friday.

Both Klapmeier and Mayor Don Ness say that timeline is time critical, which is why they're taking a $4 million investment request to Governor Dayton, and state economic leaders, this legislative session.

The other $6 million would come from the city, paid for through a combination of tax increments that would come from the new structure and lease payments that Cirrus would pay to cover that difference.

"This is a model that has been proven successful in the past with previous expansions, and we're looking to employ that same sort of approach to this new expansion," said Mayor Ness, "that will facilitate not only the growth of this company, but very important job growth in the region.

While not specific on the potential growth, Klapmeier says they've added over 300 new jobs in the past three years with intention to reach a similar figure in the next three years.
Mayor Ness says the project would attract worldwide revenue.

"But there's only a few industries that we have in this region that bring in outside money into our economy, and aviation is one of those key industries," added Ness.

Mayor Ness says it would also further secure Cirrus's place in the world aviation market, which is why lawmakers need to act this session.

Cirrus spokespeople say 2014 was the best year in deliveries for the company since 2008.

Currently, there are nearly 6,000 Cirrus airplanes in the field.

Story and video:

Cirrus, Duluth seek funding for new jet center

DULUTH, Minn. -- As Duluth-based Cirrus Aircraft nears production of its new Vision SF-50 light jet, the company faces a problem.

It's in dire need of more production space.

To ensure that the jet is built in Duluth and that the company has room to grow, the city of Duluth wants to build a $10 million facility on city-owned land just southeast of Cirrus' headquarters and production center at the Duluth International Airport.

The plan, announced by Duluth Mayor Don Ness on Friday, calls for $4 million in state funding. The funding will be sought from the state's general fund and Department of Employment and Economic Development programs. The city would kick in $6 million through the establishment of a tax-increment financing district. Taxes and lease payments paid by Cirrus would help repay the cost of the project.

Similar approaches have been used with other business expansions in Duluth, including the former Northwest Airlines Maintenance Base built in the 1990s. The city also built Cirrus' Customer Center about 12 years ago which the company leases.

But for Cirrus, the timing is critical for this latest 60,000-square-foot expansion. Action by the state Legislature would be needed this session, say both Ness and Cirrus CEO Dale Klapmeier.

Ness has talked to Gov. Mark Dayton and local legislators about the project, with the response so far positive, city staff say.

Cirrus needs the additional facility as it revs up production of its groundbreaking personal jet in the next year, and starts filling the more than 500 orders it has for the $2 million aircraft.

After years of development, Cirrus' single-engine jet is expected to get certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, start production and deliver its first plane by the end of the year.

Just this week, Cirrus added 40,000 square feet of space at 4950 Miller Trunk Highway, an off-airport location where machining, sub-assembly production, equipment testing and research and development will occur. At full capacity about 50 people will work there.

"Moving to that building opened up space we need to finish certification and see us through (the first) deliveries," Klapmeier said.

But beyond that, Cirrus will need the proposed $10 million facility to serve as the completion center for finishing work on the jets, as well as provide room for the company to grow.

"We will be time-critical in about a year from now," Klapmeier said.

Ness said Duluth is a player in the aviation sector. He wants the aviation hub in Duluth to grow. And this new Cirrus facility is critical for that to happen, he said.

"There's no question it's Cirrus that's the aviation core of Duluth," he said. "We want to ensure Duluth is the place where Cirrus continues to grow."

In the last three years, Cirrus has been on a growth spurt. Deliveries of its SR-20, SR-22 and SR-22Ts single-engine piston planes have been building after several years of declining numbers due to the lingering impact of the economic recession.

The company has added 300 jobs, many for its jet program. That brings its total staff to more than 825, with 650 in Duluth, company officials say.

Klapmeier says that job growth will continue in the future, though he declined to say how many jobs will be created. In its news conference announcement, however, the city said more than 150 additional jobs could be generated.

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