Wednesday, August 24, 2011
BROKEN ARROW - Rick Armstrong, vice president of simulation for FlightSafety International, believes the company has a "value proposition" that is attractive to airlines, the military and corporate aviation departments facing high fuel prices in a stagnant economy.
It's cheaper - and more forgiving - to train in a full-motion flight simulator, Armstrong said, than in an aircraft burning high-price jet fuel.
Armstrong told more than 500 people at the grand opening Tuesday of FlightSafety's $42 million, 375,000-square-feet flight simulator manufacturing facility in Broken Arrow that he expects a strong return on the company's value proposition.
"We look forward to an exciting future here," he said. "We have 684 employees. We have gone from 240,000 square feet (in four Broken Arrow facilities) to 375,000 square feet. There is room for growth here. Our goal is to be the market leader and to support our city, our state and our nation."
After a year of construction by general contractor Crossland Construction of Tulsa, the new facility opened on a 17-acre site south of 71st Street and Lynn Lane.
A recovery in the economy should lead to job growth at FlightSafety's new plant, company executives said, and up to 1,000 people could be working there within a few years, up 46 percent from today's number.
With 17 bays, or flight simulator manufacturing positions, and a supporting cast of 250 engineers, the plant will speed communications and collaboration, company executives said.
"This new facility will increase the efficiency of the manufacturing processes, providing the highest quality simulation and training devices and provide an outstanding work environment for 700 teammates, with more to come," said Bruce Whitman, president and CEO.
Whitman thanked Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., for his support of the project, and he also expressed his appreciation to the City of Broken Arrow, the Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.
Gov. Mary Fallin thanked the FlightSafety executives for having confidence to invest in Broken Arrow and Oklahoma.
"It's a great day for Oklahoma, and especially when jobs are added with a world-class company with the reputation and expertise FlightSafety has," Fallin said. "The aerospace industry is the most important industry in Oklahoma. One in 10 Oklahomans have jobs in the aerospace industry - 142,000 jobs, a $12 billion impact on Oklahoma's economy."
Mayor Mike Lester noted the $6 million in infrastructure improvements and economic incentives provided FlightSafety by the city in return for the company's long-term investment in Broken Arrow.
"We have 670 jobs today with the likelihood of growing by 300 more jobs in a few years," he said. "If we would have allowed FlightSafety to leave Broken Arrow, it would have had a tremendous impact on the companies that do business in Broken Arrow.
"And now, all I can say is, "Let the production begin.' "
A unit of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in Omaha, Neb., FlightSafety is based in New York and operates the world's largest fleet of advanced flight simulators at 43 training centers around the world.
FlightSafety's annual payroll in Broken Arrow is $38 million. It infuses $45 million into its local supplier base, and it does business with more than 9,000 vendors, company officials said.
By D.R. STEWART World Staff Writer