Kansas Earmarks $16 Million for Bombardier Tech Center

Montreal-based Bombardier Inc. has received $16 million from Kansas, the latest installment of a $52.7-million financial-aid package to help fund its Learjet 85 business-jet project in Wichita.

The expansion will build a flight-test center, a new paint shop and establish the Bombardier Center of Excellence of Engineering and Information Technology, creating at least 450 jobs, the Montreal Gazette reports.

The renewed commitment for the Learjet project was seen by analysts as a clear indication that the Jayhawk State intends to fight to maintain its preeminence as the nation’s leading aerospace manufacturing hub in the wake of Boeing’s surprise announcement that it is closing a military aircraft facility in Wichita that employs 2,160.

The Learjet 85 is a $600-million U.S. program. Bombardier officials said the company also has received funds from the city , county and other economic development organizations totaling roughly $10 million in November, Wichita city council and Sedgwick county each pledged $1 million for a parking lot.

The Learjet mid-size corporate jet is due for delivery in 2013. The new engineering center will work for other Bombardier aircraft programs as well.

According the the Gazette report, Bombardier’s bargaining position improved significantly after Boeing Co.’s decision last week to shut its 82-year-old, 2 million-square-foot defense factory in 2013. The Canadian company reportedly told Kansas officials it was considering alternative locations in Arizona for the new engineering center.

“We have a very solid relationship with the state of Kansas and we are committed to expanding our activities there,” Annie Cossette, spokesperson for Bombardier Aerospace’s business aircraft division, told the Gazette.

Bombardier’s Learjet division, which employs 2,840 people, will create at least 450 jobs over the next seven to 10 years, she noted, in addition to the 400 people hired in the last 18 months.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback was quoted as saying at the Bombardier ceremony: “I lament the Boeing defense’s decision … but you are seeing the third-largest aircraft manufacturer in the world, Bombardier Learjet, invest heavily in Wichita.”

Wichita has been hit hard by the aerospace slowdown over the last three years, particularly in business jets. In 2009, Bombardier cut 820 Learjet workers, Cessna Aircraft Corp. slashed 7,500 jobs and Hawker Beechcraft reportedly may have to institute another major round of layoffs after being excluded from bidding on an important Pentagon contract.