Firm breaks ground on jet service center

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. - Embraer, the Brazilian aviation company, broke ground yesterday on a $10 million service center for executive jets that could eventually employ 60 people.

The 45,000-square-foot facility, just outside Bradley International Airport's fence and almost directly across the street from the New England Air Museum, is one of three facilities Embraer is building in the United States to maintain, repair and upgrade its series of executive jets.

On display on a firefighting road that runs onto the Bradley grounds yesterday was an Embraer Legacy 600, a 16-seat twin-engine jet with leather seats, polished jacaranda wood accents, credenza, full galley and luxurious rest room. The jet sells for $25.4 million, according to Embraer.

Gary J. Spulak, president of Embraer Aircraft Holding Inc., said the company settled on building at Bradley because it needed a facility in the Northeast, and this area offers "a skilled labor force, availability of land to expand, and a nice place for our customers to come."

Embraer is leasing five acres from Bradley, with the option to expand onto another five acres. The lease is for 30 years.

"When a major international company locates in our region, it's always a plus," said Michael J. Graney, senior vice president for business development with the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony under a tent at the edge of the airport grounds.

"From a jobs perspective, this has regional implications," Graney added. "It's my suspicion a lot of these jobs will be filled by Western Massachusetts residents."

Hiring is expected to begin in early 2008, with the facility scheduled to open in August, 2008. The facility is expected to employ about 60 people "over the first few years," according to Robert A. Davis, managing director and chief operating officer for Embraer Executive Jet Services.

The facility will handle scheduled maintenance on the jets, repairs, upgrades and full assembly and disassembly, Davis said.

About 40 to 45 of the jobs will be filled by air frame and power plant mechanics, with five to 10 providing engineering and technical support as well as scheduling work, and about 10 serving in administrative roles, Davis said.

The facility itself will cost about $8.2 million and over $2 million will be spent on tools and other equipment, Davis said. L. Scott Frantz, chairman of Bradley's board of directors, said the airport had been working for about 15 months to bring Embraer here.

The groundbreaking featured Connecticut's Lt. Gov. Michael Fredele and U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-Conn., as well as a bevy of other officials from the state.

Embraer is building another executive jet service center in Mesa, Ariz., and plans to build a third in the southern part of the country.