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Plattsburgh Aerospace
Cluster Picks Up Speed

Former Air Force base attracts MRO from Canada.


Laurentian Aerospace plans a multi- phase MRO project at Plattsburgh International Airport.

viation industry veteran Paul Gobeil was searching across most of Canada for the proper site for his new start- up MRO (maintenance/ repair/ overhaul) operation when he got wind of the aviation cluster developing at Plattsburgh International Airport in Upstate New York, about an hour's drive south of his Montréal home.
   "We had been at this for a while and looked at four or five airports from Montréal to Calgary, including Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto," says Gobeil, president and CEO of the new company, Laurentian Aerospace. "By chance, I wanted to take a look at Plattsburgh and I met with Garry Douglas [president of the Plattsburgh- North Country Chamber of Commerce] at a conference near Montréal and a month later we had a deal."
   During that month, state officials put together a package of incentives. In addition, U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Congressman John McHugh, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, hosted a visit to Washington, D.C. by Laurentian. The visit highlighted future defense contract opportunities and established contacts with the U.S. Air Force and others.
   "We wanted to build a brand new facility and there's lots of room there to build and it has a huge ramp area," Gobeil says. "There are also 60,000 people working in the aeronautical industry in New York and nearly 200,000 in the northeastern states. We're also near Montréal, the capital of aerospace in Canada. The location gives us the best of both worlds, really."
   The project is ambitious and huge. The first phase, with construction now set to begin next March or April, involves construction of a 262,000- sq.- ft. (24,400- sq.- m.) two- bay hangar complex employing 800 when operational. The second phase, set for completion in 2011, will add two bays and 800 more employees. Gobeil anticipates eventually adding a third phase, bringing the total to six bays and 2,400 employees.
   That total doesn't include the anticipated employment by subcontractors that will serve Laurentian. Gobeil says Laurentian has already had discussions with subcontractors. Some will likely work in Laurentian's facility while other will establish separate operations nearby.
   "We don't try to do everything ourselves," Gobeil says. "I think we will have a similar number of people locate here involved in spare parts and other services attached to this business."
   Laurentian's services will include "C and D" checks, the heavier periodic maintenance checks. It will also perform repairs, aeronautical equipment updates, overhauls and conversions. Gobeil says constructing Laurentian's facility from scratch, rather than locating it in an older existing facility, allows the firm to install state- of- the- art equipment, including laser- directed docking systems costing US$6 million each. That is expected to result in significant savings, including faster and lower- cost C and D checks, he says.
   Gobeil says most of Laurentian's customers will be U.S.- based commercial and cargo carriers. Laurentian will concentrate on wide- body aircraft and will eventually explore military business in the project's second and third phases.

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