Posted at: 01/14/2013 5:32 PM
Updated at: 01/14/2013 6:18 PM
By: Maarja Anderson
One year ago this week Kestrel Aircraft announced they would build a new manufacturing plant in Superior, bringing 600 jobs to the area. 12 months later, there is no visible construction, but they've hired more than 100 employees and are finalizing the design details of the Kestrel airplane.
CEO of Kestrel Aircraft, Alan Klapmeier, said progress has been made this year, but not as much as they would have liked.
"Of the visible pieces, certainly one of the ones we would be most disappointed about is that we have not yet started construction on what we call the Winter Street project," said Klapmeier.
They planned on breaking ground on their composite plant, where the airplane parts are made, last Spring. Delays in committed funding have pushed that date back a whole year and that delay is reflected through the whole project.
"There are other parts of the program that have been much more difficult, where we would like to see a greater sense of urgency towards the final goal," Klapmeier said.
Winter Street is just one part of a three-facility operation. Once the parts are made at the composite plant on Winter Street, they'll bring those parts to Bong Airport to assemble the Kestrel at a pre-existing hangar.
On Tower Ave. at Kestrel headquarters, Klapmeier said they are growing into the basement. They currently have 65 employees working in Superior and they are continuing to hire. The design and engineering team is focusing on "freezing" the exact design of the Kestrel and getting the Federal Aviation Administration certification.
Klapmeier said they will reach the 600-job benchmark when production increases in either 2016 or 2017. This year, they will focus on making parts that will eventually fly. They hope to have the first Kestrel prototype assembled at the airport next fall, and ready to fly in early 2014.