The CEO of Hawker Beechcraft aircraft denied reports Tuesday that Lowndes County lost a new parts manufacturing facility to Baton Rouge, La., but said that unnamed sites in Mississippi and Louisiana were still finalists for a new plant.
Bill Boisture told the Wichita Eagle on Tuesday that reports aired on WCBI-TV Tuesday, and a story posted to the station”s website, was inaccurate in reporting the Wichita, Kan.-based manufacturer had chosen Baton Rouge over the Golden Triangle Global Industrial Aerospace Park.
“We decided that of the potential possibilities for the company, it appeared that Louisiana would offer a good possibility — a good potential possibility,” Boisture told the Eagle. Boisture didn”t name any specific cities in either state.
In a letter to Hawker Beechcraft employees Tuesday, Boisture wrote “Contrary to recently published information, I want to confirm to you that no decisions have been made at this time regarding an alternate U.S. location.”
Boisture says the company is analyzing its possibilities and expects to “make a series of decisions over the next six months.” Contacted later Tuesday, a Hawker Beechcraft spokesman said the company had no further comment beyond the letter.
The news came as Joe Higgins, CEO of The Columbus-Lowndes Development Link, and economic development officials from around the nation and world are in Farnborough, England, for an international air exhibition, courting industrial clients. Higgins was unavailable for comment. Others with knowledge of the negotiations said they were not at liberty to discuss the proceedings, citing confidentiality agreements. WCBI reported Hawker Beechcraft announced the decision Monday.
Hawker Beechcraft manufactures small private aircraft and also makes the T-6A Texan II, one of the training aircraft used by pilots at Columbus Air Force Base. A weaponized model of the same plane is used by foreign air forces, including Iraq.
The Wichita Eagle reported that in past months, Hawker Beechcraft was working from a list of 10 locations “that might be suitable for developing facilities for parts of our business.”
In his letter to employees Boisture says “demand for business and general aviation products has decreased significantly over the last 18 months,” and the company would need to “adjust (its) cost structure in order to remain competitive in this smaller market.”
Part of those adjustments include “exploring other locations within and outside the U.S. that might be suitable for parts of our business.”
The report did not say if layoffs are expected at Hawker Beechcraft”s existing facilities.