Honda-GE May Build Jet Engine at Burlington, N.C., Airport

Greensboro business recruiters are working with Honda to attract the company's jet-engine plant to Piedmont Triad International Airport despite reports that Honda is focusing on Burlington's airport.

When Honda Aircraft chose Piedmont Triad International Airport in February for its main HondaJet factory, it did not say where it would build the jet engines, which will be made by a joint venture with GE.

Officials in Alamance County are now buying land and expanding Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport, and reports suggest Honda has locked in on a site there.

Kathi Dubel, of the Greensboro Economic Development Alliance, said the group has been working to recruit the engine plant since early this year, and that process continues.

"We're still working with them and that's the way it stands," said the alliance's vice president of new business development and expansion services.

The Burlington-Alamance Airport Authority is buying at least 80 nearby acres, according to records at the Alamance County Register of Deeds. The land is being reserved for an industry related to aviation, according to a report Wednesday in the Burlington Times-News.

A spokesman for the Burlington airport told that newspaper that a project known as "Big Wing" is considering the airport. That spokesman, Dan Danieley, chairman of the airport authority, did not return calls from the News & Record on Wednesday.

Honda consultants have used the name "Big Wing" for several months to shop for sites for the engine plant, Dan Lynch, president of the Greensboro Economic Development Partnership, told the News & Record.

Lynch said earlier this year that "there were a couple of 'Big Wing' projects - 1 and 2. The engine assembly facility was one and airframe design and headquarters was the second one."

Honda is building a $60 million design and headquarters building and plans to add a manufacturing building later at PTI. It will employ about 300 highly paid workers at first and will make a minimum of 70 planes a year for delivery by 2010.

PTI still has about 600 acres available should the company want to build engines there, Dubel said.

Honda developed the radical plane, called a "very light jet", at PTI along with its engine, which is lighter as well and mounted atop the wings.

Mac Williams, president of the Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce, said he couldn't discuss whether Honda is looking there or whether his county is the leading candidate, "but I certainly hope we are, and if that's true that would be great news. But I'm not in a position to confirm whether any of that is going on or true."

Jeffrey Smith, a Honda spokesman, said the company never discusses its projects or decision-making process.

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