Editori’s note: Updated June 6 at 3:30 p.m. with comments from the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Development Authority and the Georgia Center of Innovation for Aerospace.
Brazilian aircraft giant Embraer is setting up an operation to maintain and repair commercial jets in Macon, a move that will bring 100 jobs to the Middle Georgia city.
The company will occupy a hangar at Middle Georgia Regional Airport vacated late last year by HAECO, a Hong Kong-based firm that consolidated its maintenance operations elsewhere in the Southeast U.S.
Embraer Aircraft Maintenance Services will invest $1.6 million in the facility and will pay out $4.5 million per year in wages. The three-year lease is also stacked with three one-year options, according to the Macon Bibb-County Industrial Authority, which announced the deal at a June 5 board meeting.
The boost is especially welcome in light of HAECO’s departure: At one point that firm had employed over 300 within its purpose-built facility at the airport. Embraer is absorbing a lot of that displaced workforce, helping anchor an airport undergoing a lot of change including a runway expansion.
It didn’t happen by accident, said Stephen Adams, the acting director of the industrial authority, which sent out “rapid response teams” after HAECO left to help workers prepare for the future. The group compiled job descriptions and contact information with the idea of showcasing the strength of the local workforce to a future tenant.
“That was actually something that we used in the recruitment of Embraer to say that the workforce is available and eager to work,” Mr. Adams said.
The move also shows how local ties can facilitate global engagement. Tennessee-based Contour Aviation, which flies Embraer jets on charter flights and commercial routes like its Macon-Baltimore connection, helped make the introduction to the Brazilian firm, the Macon Telegraph wrote, citing Macon Mayor Robert Reichert.
Mr. Adams confirmed that Embraer approached the community as word about Macon’s aerospace strengths spread. Now, Macon-Bibb County has the chance to play to its strengths: taking care of “existing industry” in such a way that locally invested international companies become its best advocate, Mr. Adams said.
“We really feel like this is a foot in the door for Embraer for Macon and Bibb County, and when they get here they’re going to find this is a very pro-business community,” he said.
Founded in 1969, Embraer is the world’s largest manufacturer of jets with fewer than 150 seats. The company says 8,000 Embraer planes delivered over five decades carry 145 million passengers per year, with one taking off every 10 seconds somewhere around the globe.
The Macon facility was chosen to service the ERJ and E-Jet families of twin-engine aircraft after an “exhaustive search,” Embraer Vice President Frank Stevens said in the release. Mr. Stevens couldn’t be immediately reached by phone.
Aerospace is a major industry in Georgia, with nearly 100,000 people working across the state in more than 800 civilian and defense companies conducting operations, manufacturing and work in the so-called Maintenance Repair and Overhaul, or MRO, sector.
With 30,000-plus MRO workers, Georgia ranks fourth among states for employment in the sector, and Middle Georgia is one of its hubs. Delta TechOps has a major facility at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, while Warner Robins is home to the U.S. Air Force Air Logistics Complex.
Aerospace manufacturing often gets the glory, especially in a state that leads the nation by some metrics, but aircraft maintenance is also big contributor to Georgia’s economy, booking some $2.5 billion in revenue annually. Georgia is particularly strong in maintaining some older aircraft.
“You build an airplane once but you’re going to maintain it for a long time, and that’s where a lot of the revenue chain is,” said Amy Hudnall, director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Aerospace. “And it is a big revenue chain.”
Macon is also privileged in this regard, as it’s home to Middle Georgia State University, the state’s leading institution for aviation maintenance technicians, and companies tend to cluster around other companies as well as ample available workforce, Ms. Hudnall said.
Planes and their parts are Georgia’s largest export product, to the tune of $8.44 billion, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
Georgia is also no stranger to Brazilian investment. Pistol manufacturer Taurus Holdings recently broke ground ion a $22.5 million factory in Bainbridge, and the state is home to major Brazilian industrial investors like WEG and Embraco, as well as tech companies like Stefanini and Merchant e-Solutions, among many others.