Blytheville company expanding with county help

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

BLYTHEVILLE, AR  (KAIT) --Even before its first aircraft rolled in the hangar doors we have been following Aviation Repair Technologies growth at the Arkansas Aeroplex in Blytheville.

With three expansion plans underway, they will soon begin part two with some help from the county.

Unbelievable as it seems the Aeroplex in Blytheville may run out of buildings for ART to use. Not today but perhaps in the future.

First they have to get part 2 of their growth plan going and for that they asked for assistance from the county to redo a building.

"We do not give any industry cash. We invest that money in either infrastructure or equipment or those kinds of things." County Judge Steve McGuire said people may think they just hand them a check but it doesn't work that way at all.

Just this week the Mississippi County quorum Court voted to commit 2 million toward ART Expansion.

The second part of ART's expansion plans are to refurbish another building on the old base. It's where they used to repair cruise missiles.

Clif Chitwood the head of Mississippi counties economic development program said this is an ideal building for ART to use. "It has a track assembly that runs all through the entire building on a loop."

The building will house jet engine maintenance for smaller regional jets which is what ART is hoping to attract with it's Blytheville location.

"ART believes they have a unique location and an opportunity to gain a larger share of the market for the smaller jets. Every year there are fewer airlines who want to do their own maintenance it's something they like to outsource."

Under the initial agreement ART had to provide 300 jobs and keep them for a specified period. They have grown so much that they have taken nearly all the useable large aircraft space already including a shop for engine tear downs for parts. This work is done for KLM and Air France Airlines.

In the future ART plans to expand again this time re-opening a jet engine test cell of which there are very few in the country and nearly too expensive to build.

Chitwood said a new building would cost around 25 million or more.

"For about 2 and a half million dollars we can put in new electronics and new mounting brackets on this one that will fit the engines ART primarily wants to work on."

County Judge McGuire says fortunately Mississippi County will be able to help with his growth by having the funds set aside thanks in no small part to the people of the county.

"They approved and passed a half cent sales tax for economic development for the purpose of bringing in new jobs and it's been very successful. Puts us in a competitive position."

Chitwood says he hopes that in a couple of years, other coat-tail businesses will come to the area. Businesses that support ART's activities.

This second phase of expansion is expected to add another 300 or so jobs to the company payrolls. There is no set time when phase 3 may take off.

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