Sep. 27—DULUTH — Cirrus Aircraft unveiled its new Innovation Center at its headquarters during a well-attended grand opening event Wednesday.
"It's going to be great and we're very excited. It's something that I've been pushing for a number of years now to get all of our engineers under one roof," said Chief Executive Officer Zean Nielsen. "It's going to break down a bunch of silos. It's going to get people together with their leaders and mentors. It's going to fully get people back into the office."
More than $20 million was invested to transform the 189,000-square-foot space on 39 acres, which formerly served as the maintenance, repair and operations building for Northwest and AAR.
Since the building was specialized for its previous use, the company partnered with external environmental consultants to ensure proper and environmentally compliant disposal of the former fire suppression system.
The state's largest automated variable refrigerant flow system was also installed to manage airflow and regulate temperatures. Instead of a conventional heating and cooling system where heat is created every time a space is too cold, the system will transfer excess heat from other areas of the building to the space that needs it for increased energy efficiency. The facility also received a new roof and windows.
Cirrus is also partnering with Minnesota Power to develop and install electric vehicle charging stations, and a shuttle will further reduce fuel consumption.
A bike room was added with a focus on employee health, but also supports St. Louis County's application for improvements to the road leading to Cirrus Aircraft, Nielsen added.
The Innovation Center consists of two floors of office space, a series of labs and a large hanger. It features a larger material and processes lab, a new integration test lab, upgraded advanced design and development lab, as well as new environmental equipment and testing capabilities.
Eighty engineer and technical positions will be created over the next three years, including the 30 team members already hired since 2022. There are currently 300 employees at the Innovation Center. Overall, Cirrus employs 2,500 people across its seven campuses. In the past year, the company has hired 1,000 people, which speaks to the substantial growth.
The creation of the center freed up 70,000 square feet of space for increased production for the company to continue to scale volume.
In June, Duluth's largest manufacturing company filed an A1 IPO with the
Hong Kong Stock Exchange
and is well into the process of going public, according to Nielsen.
"This has been a desire for many years and we have gradually been getting ourselves prepared for being public," Nielsen said.
Due to the exchange's requirements, the company is not permitted to disclose an actual listing date, he said.
Nielsen doesn't anticipate that the increasing tensions between China and the U.S. to have an impact on the company, which has been owned by China Aviation Industry General Aviation Co., a division of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corp. of China, since 2011.
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