Citing a failure to live up to manufacturing and job commitments at a $26.3 million state-funded facility the State of Alabama has canceled their agreement with Bell Helicopter.
The original agreement proposed that Bell would assemble their 505 JetRangerX helicopter at the Lafayette Aircraft Assembly Center with a commitment of 115 new jobs. In 2017 this was changed to the subassembly of the 525 Relentless helicopter cabins along with other defense-related projects with a lowered job commitment of 95. The state of Alabama also agreed to extend the term of the agreement from 2029 to 2031. The agreement also stipulated that the facility would provide 25 new, full-time jobs in 2017 and 95 full-time jobs in 2018, however, the facility currently has only 22 full-time employees.
In February of this year, Bell informed the state that they intended to move the proposed 525 Relentless sub-assembly to Amarillo, Texas, moving other non-assembly operations to Lafayette to make up for the jobs moving to Texas. Executive vice president and chief communications officer at Bell Robert Hastings claims that the state knew that Bell had begun the process of moving the 525 Relentless work to Alabama when the state terminated the agreement.
Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson said “Following four years of underperformance by the company and a failure to produce either of the agreed-upon operations, Louisiana Economic Development has elected to terminate its Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with Bell Helicopter. Despite LED’s efforts to accommodate Bell Helicopter, the company never identified a path forward for meeting its obligations to the state of Louisiana. The state of Louisiana has met its obligations for the project; Bell Helicopter has not.”
Bell Helicopter contends that they “strongly dispute” the state’s position that they did not begin and maintain continuous commercial operations at the Lafayette facility and believes they have at all times remained in compliance with their agreement with the state. Bell began moving the 525 cabin assembly to Amarillo on Monday, the week of August 21st.