Aircraft maker Kestrel to employ 600 in Wisconsin

SUPERIOR -- Gov. Scott Walker and Kestrel Aircraft Corp. officials announced Monday that the aircraft manufacturer plans to make Superior the home of its manufacturing facility and headquarters, a move that will bring about 600 jobs to the area by 2016.

The announcement was made at the Richard I. Bong Airport in Superior.

"There were a number of locations that would have worked from a business standpoint,'' said Alan Klapmeier, head of Kestrel and co-founder and former chief executive officer of Duluth-based Cirrus Aircraft. "It was really just a matter of working with the different communities and getting together the package that was necessary.''

The Superior Telegram ( reported the economic downturn made it difficult to get the project going.

Kestrel's website says it makes 6- and 8-person turboprop planes. Its headquarters and manufacturing operations are currently located in Brunswick, Maine. It also has engineering and design offices in Duluth, Minn.

The announcement did not mention how existing locations and employees would be affected. A message left with the company's spokeswoman was not immediately returned.

The state has committed more than $100 million to the project, including $30 million in New Market Tax Credits in 2012, $60 million in future allocations, and a $2 million loan through the
state's Small Business Credit Initiative Program through Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is adding $18 million in Enterprise Zone Tax Credits and a $2 million economic development loan to the pot.

"This is a great oppotunity for us today,'' Walker said. "We're talking about 600 jobs in a community that obviously this part of the state needs jobs, so the fact that it's right here in
Superior is even more special.''

The financial package also includes $3.1 million in tax increment financing and a $2.4 million low-interest loan through the city of Superior. It also includes the transfer of county owned land adjacent to the Bong Airport and a $500,000 loan through the Douglas County Revolving Loan Fund.

Walker said this is the largest single job creation since he took office. The closest was 469 jobs announced in Sturtevant a couple months ago.