A few months ago, local officials were quietly but desperately working to keep BAE Systems and its 1,150 mostly high-paying jobs in Fort Wayne.
Today, those efforts bore tangible fruit when ground was broken for the aerospace and electronics company's $39 million, 334,000-square-foot facility at Airport Expressway and Ardmore Avenue.
“Our goal for this new manufacturing facility is to create an environment where we can continue delivering industry-leading products to our customers in the most efficient way as possible,” BAE Director of Operations Bob Hoffman said in a statement. “(This) site allows us to do that while retaining our highly skilled Fort Wayne workforce.”
A few months ago, keeping those employees in Fort Wayne was in doubt. As The News-Sentinel first reported last September, company officials had floated the idea of moving the facility elsewhere, possibly Ohio. The company's current location is in the World War II-era former General Electric plant on Taylor Street.
That possibility resulted in a series of behind-the-scenes meetings, and company officials later announced they would build a facility on the 67-acre Airport Expressway site with the help of $2.5 million from the Capital Improvement Board and about $2 million from the city's Redevelopment Commission.
Additional government incentives may also be available, officials have said.
Mayor Tom Henry expressed satisfaction with the outcome.
“Today's event demonstrates the unprecedented positive momentum we're seeing in Fort Wayne. We appreciate the commitment by BAE to invest in our community. Job growth, job retention, economic development opportunities, and quality of life are the key components that make our city a leader in attracting and retaining jobs and businesses,” he said in a statement.
BAE makes engine controls and flight controls for commercial and military aircraft and a variety of products for commercial aircraft. Its local employees earn an average of $55,000 per year. BAE expects to occupy the new building by the end of 2015.