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Tue, Jun 26, 2007

Piper Narrows Short List For Light Jet Plant Location

Sorry, Tallahassee... And Columbia...

Piper Aircraft announced Friday it has narrowed the short list of potential locations to locate its light jet manufacturing center.

The company eliminated Tallahassee, FL, and Columbia, SC, from consideration. The three potential locations remaining are Vero Beach, FL; Albuquerque, NM; and Oklahoma City, OK, according to the Associated Press.

"Despite their strengths, Columbia and Tallahassee did not compare as favorably as competing cities when we considered some of our key location criteria, such as a more established aviation sector and a ready work force," the company said.

There is fierce competition for the plant, which will employ an estimated 1500 people.

As ANN has reported, the Vero Beach proposal package tops out at $50 million and includes such incentives as purchasing Piper's existing facilities and leasing it back to the company and building a new facility for building the PiperJet, along with the impact fees associated with the construction and possibly a reduced utility rate, said Helene Caseltine, economic development director for the Indian River County Chamber of Commerce.

New Mexico is just as serious. Acting secretary of economic development Kelly O'Donnell has said the state has "an arsenal" of incentives it is authorized to offer including industrial revenue bonds, a program to provide reimbursement for certain training costs, and tax credits for providing high wage jobs and on the value of equipment they bring into the state.

"I will tell you that we are clearly very, very interested in Piper and we would be delighted if they were to choose New Mexico as a site for their facility," said O'Donnell. "We feel we present a very competitive package, and clearly New Mexico is becoming increasingly desirable as a place to do business."

Vero Beach, Piper's home base since 1957, is pleased with the announcement. The city council voted unanimously Thursday to approve a $76.5 million incentive package for Piper, according to the Treasure Coast Palm.

"We feel pretty good about this and we're certainly very optimistic," said Vero Beach City Manager Jim Gabbard.

"It's great that we're still in on the list but now it boils down to our negotiations," Vero Beach Mayor Tom White said.

"This is great news," agreed Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. "Our team will continue to work closely with Piper officials to show them how an Oklahoma City location can support their business plan."

FMI: www.piper.com

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