Local aircraft supplier ABI Group is looking at a major expansion, becoming an early tenant at both Wichita State University’s proposed Innovation Campus and at Newton’s airport.
The company, which will keep its headquarters at 535 W. Douglas, is the second company to commit to lease space at WSU’s public-private research building.
ABI staff will work in a lab there in conjunction with students and staff of the National Institute for Aviation Research. Company founder and CEO James Havers-Strong said the company is working with NIAR on chemical milling – products and processes used to lighten the weight of metal aircraft skins.
This is the second tenant announced for the Innovation Campus planned for the eastern edge of the WSU campus. WSU and data storage giant NetApp announced plans earlier this month to establish an office on the proposed campus.
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ABI also announced that it will lease a planned 20,000-square-foot building at the Newton City-County Airport for the manufacture of chemicals and equipment used in chemical milling.
The city will build a building at a cost not to exceed $4.6 million and the company will lease it. The Newton City Council approved the deal Tuesday night.
Taken together, the two facilities create a major new direction for the company.
“This is a substantial increase in our manufacturing capabilities and will help us to better serve our customer base moving forward,” Havers-Strong said.
Havers-Strong launched the company in 2010 to provide labor and support to small to mid-size airlines but has rapidly branched into other businesses, such as composite repair kits for major airlines, aerospace abrasive products, aerospace coatings and consumables such as ultrasonic knives.
For WSU and NIAR, ABI is the first of what they hope will be many smaller Wichita companies to commit to lease space at the Innovation Campus.
“It’s like NIAR, only it’s more interactive with industry, and can go outside of aerospace,” said NIAR executive director John Tomblin. “The relevance of ABI is that, when you compare it to NetApp and its 600 employees, the Innovation Campus can also appeal to and benefit small companies that want to grow.”