MONTROSE – A manufacturing plant that builds corporate jets may soon locate to Montrose, if it wins out against another rival city.
County Manager Jesse Smith and other officials held a community meeting last week to discuss the possibility of the manufacturer coming to Montrose and said community support was paramount in the final decision. He said about 33,000 entities have competed for the unnamed company, but that Montrose was in the final two to be considered.
Community support was evident at the meeting, where more than 150 applauding people packed a room at Montrose Fairground’s Friendship Hall.
Bob Brown, chairman of the new Downtown Development Corporation, said his board is “100 percent behind this venture,” as did Polly Hohlenkamp, representing Montrose Association of Commerce and Tourism, formerly the Montrose Chamber of Commerce.
If it locates here, the new plant will eventually provide 220 jobs, with most hires from the Montrose area, including the plant manager, Smith said.
“Their goal is to hire locally,” said Sandy Head, director of the Montrose Economic Development Corp., which the company initially contacted.
The company’s name cannot be revealed, Smith said, because they don’t want to make a public announcement until after the deal is signed. A decision could come by the end of the month and construction would start within six weeks.
The city, county, state and MEDC are all working to convince the company, which for now is being referred to by the code name Thunder, to bring the plant to Montrose.
“One thing they like here is the whole nature of the community and the fact that Gordon Composites is here,” Smith said. “It’s a carbon deposit airplane and discussions have been going on for six months.”
One requirement of the company is that the plant will be located on airport land, and the county is prepared to buy 7.8 acres for that purpose. Initially, the plant would start operating in a 6,000-square-foot hangar the county owns at the airport; another 10,000 square foot hangar would then be built on county-owned land.
The company would be able to take advantage of many local options, such as using the Region 10 loan fund, which would require that 51 percent of new jobs go to people of low or moderate income. The company would also get tax breaks from the county, which would establish a Foreign Free Trade Zone, so the company would not be subject to import fees, since many of its components are made overseas.
But the engine and avionics systems are already manufactured in the U.S., Smith said, and the company has been searching all of North America to find the right place to build its planes.
“They’ve got three certified aircraft to sell in the U.S., to be brought over from an international location, because they need a presence here,” Smith said.
The plant would be a “clean neat operation,” he said, and use unique manufacturing methods.
“It’s a team effort from beginning to end, and they build it in bays with simultaneous production,” he said.
Although the term “aircraft” was used throughout the meeting, the company would obviously be building corporate jets, which might attract high rollers to the area.
“The plan is to make aircraft targeted to people like Bill Gates, sports figures, corporate executives,” Smith said. “And they will want to come here to see the plane being built.”
During the first year of operation, the company would hire 50 people for production and 15 for administration, for a total of about $3.2 million in salaries, he said, with average wages at $38,000 per year and administrative employees making an average of $82,000 annually.
“After five years, we would see $14 million being pumped into the local economy,” Smith said.
While most people at the meeting seemed to be business owners, at least one person was looking for future work. Kelsey Middleton of Montrose, a mechanical engineering student at Mesa State, said she sees the new plant as “a great opportunity.”
“I graduate in three years, and I want to stay here,” she said.