Aviation

New facility part of Spirit’s new jobs, expansion plan

A 1940s building at Spirit AeroSystems’ south Oliver plant serves as the first, tangible project in the company’s plan to hire 1,000 more workers and invest $1 billion.

It’s there, at Building 3-193G near Oliver and MacArthur, where Spirit unveiled its new Five-Axis Center of Excellence on Tuesday.

The center, which Spirit spent $30 million on, is part of the company’s investment and new jobs plan that was announced in mid-December, Spirit officials said Tuesday.

Besides a makeover to the 20,000-square-foot building, Spirit equipped the building with six Makino five-axis CNC — computer numeric controlled — machines that can cut and shape what it calls “complex” parts such as hinge-and-latch beams for Boeing’s new 737 Max passenger jet from a solid block of aluminum.

The hinge-and-latch beams are part of a larger, moveable system that makes up the 737’s thrust reverser, which enables the 737’s engines to be used as part of its braking system upon landing.

“The (737) part that we’re building here … is literally the most complex part we make of all 38,000 of those parts” Spirit manufactures daily, Spirit CEO Tom Gentile said.

The new five-axis machines “will be the catalyst in our pursuit to build fabrication to a $1 billion business,” said Kevin Matthies, Spirit’s senior vice president of global fabrication.

Expanding work within Spirit’s parts manufacturing, or fabrication, business is one of several goals Gentile has set for the company. He wants to take the $600 million worth of parts Spirit manufactured in 2017 and grow it to $1 billion in the next five years.

“This year, we expect that number to be over $680 million, a growth of 14 percent,” Gentile said. “And this new, Five-Axis Center of Excellence is going to be a big part of that growth.”

The new center comes about two months after Spirit announced its massive investment and expansion, including the new jobs that will pay an average of $56,000 a year.

The plan also calls for construction of a $14.5 million building that will be jointly be invested in by the city of Wichita and Sedgwick County as part of an incentive package.

Incentives from the state include up to $23.5 million from the Promoting Employment Across Kansas program for creating the new jobs. The two PEAK agreements Kansas has with Spirit will allow the company to keep 95 percent of its new workers’ state income taxes for up to 10 years.

The state also will provide through the Workforce AID (Aligned with Industry Demand) program up to $250,000 a year for four years — a total of $1 million — to an organization such as a community or technical college to train workers for skilled jobs at Spirit.

Kansas Department of Commerce spokesman Kevin Doel said a training provider has not yet been selected.

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark

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