Savannah-based Gulfstream Aerospace Corp.’s already rapid ascent in China just received another lift, as the Export-Import Bank of the United States backed a Chinese leasing company’s order of eight business jets.
In December, Ex-Im guaranteed a $300 million loan to Minsheng Financial Leasing Co. Ltd., which is based in the city of Tianjin. That put Ex-Im’s support of the business-jet and helicopter industry over $1 billion since fiscal 2012, achieving a goal set by bank Chairman Fred Hochberg, Ex-Im announced Feb. 21.
Backing from Ex-Im helps Gulfstream compete around the world against other global giants like Canada’s Bombardier Aerospace and Brazil’s Embraer S.A. With its rising class of wealthy executives, China has become a huge market for high-end business jets.
“In 2008, we had 10 Gulfstream aircraft based in China. Today, this number has grown to more than 80 aircraft,” Gulfstream President Larry Flynn said in a statement. Gulfstream became the first business jet maker to put a service center in China when it opened at Beijing Capital Airport in 2012.
Gulfstream employs more than 9,400 people in Georgia after recent expansions, largely thanks to growing international sales. In 2010, the company announced a $500 million investment to expand its main factory, committing to hiring 1,000 people. It has already added 2,500.
The company sold 144 aircraft in 2013, up from 94 the previous year as it introduced two new models: the top-of-the-line G650, which has made flights from Chicago to Beijing, and the mid-size G280.
While Gulfstream doesn’t break out sales by world region, communications Vice President Steve Cass told Global Atlanta that the share of its fleet based internationally has doubled to 35 percent from 18 percent a decade ago. In that same time period, the number of Gulfstream jets in Asia jumped from 30 to 230. Europe and the Middle East have also seen strong growth, and Latin America has become a focus area.
“As we sell more aircraft overseas that allows us to have more jobs in Georgia,” Mr. Cass said.
Gulfstream now has a $14 billion order backlog through 2017, with international buyers accounting for more than half the demand, he said.
Brazilian-born Fabio Rebello was recently hired to head up sales to Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean. He came to the company from Bombardier and is based in Orlando, Fla.
The company also displayed its full fleet at the Singapore Air Show earlier this month.
Gulfstream has been based in Georgia since 1967. The company is a subsidiary of Falls Church, Va.-based General Dynamics Corp.