07/02/10 — Spirit AeroSystems starts work at Kinston facility

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Spirit AeroSystems starts work at Kinston facility

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 2, 2010 1:46 PM

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Troy Herring

CEO of Spirit AeroSystems, Jeff Turner, explains the ins-and-outs of the newly unveiled automated fiber placement machine, which shapes fuselage components, to Gov. Bev Perdue during the grand opening of the new Spirit Aerosystems plant in the Global Transpark in Kinston.

KINSTON -- Thursday afternoon's symbolic start of production at the new Spirit AeroSystems plant was hailed as proof of the viability and future potential of the Global TransPark.

"There was a time about 20 years ago when a few of us dreamed big dreams," Gov. Beverly Perdue told a gathering of business leaders and local and state government officials. "We decided there would be such a thing as a Global TransPark in North Carolina. We really knew then that this day would come, the day when we would cut the big ribbon on the Global TransPark's first major client.

"Today Spirit and Spirit's partner, Airbus, will open with us one of the most advanced fabricating and assembly (facilities) in the entire world. This is red-hot for the world, not just America."

The governor reiterated that Spirit, the TransPark's first major tenant, is expected to eventually create 1,000 jobs and is investing more than $570 million in the state's economy.

Spirit will build the composite fuselage for Airbus' new A350 XWB, or extra-wide body, aircraft.

Gov. Perdue said Spirit will be a magnet that will attract other aerospace companies to the area.

"I promise you that today is only the beginning for this TransPark," she said. "Recently we have asked the Global TransPark board under the leadership of (Transportation) Secretary (Gene) Conti and (Commerce) Secretary (Keith) Criso to have to us by Aug. 1 a short- and a long-term strategic plan for the growth and success of this TransPark and our aerospace. We are going to bring more 21st century businesses to eastern North Carolina. I expect Spirit and aerospace will be as synonymous as Research Triangle Park and biotech. That is the goal."

The governor shared the stage with Airbus and Spirit officials who reaffirmed their companies' long-term commitment to the state.

The TransPark has been the target of criticism for years. Since its first inception, it has cost the state $80 million, with only minimal return. According to a recent audit, the TransPark operated at a loss of nearly $3.5 million last year and owes the state a $35 million loan, due this year.

The state provided an incentive package worth more than $125 million for Spirit to build there. The money is tied to job creation.

However, state Rep. Van Braxton, D-Lenoir, and William Wainwright, House speaker pro-tempore, said the opening of Spirit is a strong response to those critics.

"I think the presentation was great," Braxton said. "The equipment is up-to-date, modern, highly technical. I think this is a great fit for the TransPark. This is what the TransPark was designed to do. I think this will be a great facility and I look for a greater facility.

"We are negotiating as we speak for other facilities coming to this area. I think this is the catalyst that will really put the TransPark on the map and do what we all had hoped it would do and was designed to do. Even in Raleigh, there are still critics, but as this facility takes off and we add more facilities to the area I think (those) people will look back and say, 'We were wrong. This was right for eastern North Carolina. It is a good fit and a great deal for the eastern part of the state.'"

Development of the Research Triangle Park was slow, and it didn't have the environmental issues that the TransPark faced, Braxton said.

"But we have gotten over those," he said. "We might have done some things different, but this is a good idea and a new experience, and as we learn from it, we might have done some things different, but we have gotten over the hurdles. We are where we need to be and we are on track and we are moving forward."

Wainwright said he is looking for "great things" from Spirit AeroSystems.

"I think this addresses some of the concerns of the critics who thought nothing would ever come to the Global TransPark," he said. "It took better than 20-plus years for the full development of the Research Triangle Park. I think this day as Spirit makes this announcement of the opening of this facility begins a lot of activity that will take place here."

Wayne County Commissioner Andy Anderson said the money invested by Spirit ensures the company has a long-term investment in the state.

"I am very proud to see this, very proud of it," he said. "And I am proud of the things that we have in Wayne County, too. We have some good high-tech stuff there, too.

"We are all part of the team. This will draw other companies in here, too."

The TransPark contains about 2,400 acres. Spirit's 500,000 square-foot building is located on a 304-acre site.