Carrie Rengers

New aircraft supplier to open in 206,000 square feet

There’s a new aircraft supplier in Wichita, but it’s one with a lot of familiar faces in the industry.

Max Aerostructures is comprised of four former Exacta Aerospace managers – Sean Purcell, Jeff Pauli, Brian Mann and Jarrod Young – who are all partners in the deal.

Birds Eye Holdings, a private equity firm the Voegeli family started after it sold Exacta three years ago, is the majority owner of the new company. There’s an initial capital investment of $13 million in the business.

Purcell, Max Aerostructure’s executive vice president and general manager, says this is “a group of guys that have always kind of dreamed and talked about maybe getting together sometime down the road (and) starting something up.”

That something is going to be “being able to supply small and large parts but then also have a lot of assembly capability to where we can provide a product to a customer that goes straight on the production line,” Purcell says.

“Those customers and companies are focused on … building more airplanes more efficiently, and if we can take some of the headaches, so to speak, away from them in terms of managing a supply base, then they can continue to do the things they need to do in terms of (offering) better efficiencies, better product to their customer, as opposed to worrying about a supplier who’s supplying product.”

Last week, Max Aerostructures closed on the purchase of a 206,000-square-foot building at 8219 W. Irving, which is east of South Tyler and south of West Kellogg and was Bombardier Business Aircraft’s Building Nine.

The city approved $6 million in industrial revenue bonds for substantial upgrades to the building, which is on 12 acres that will allow the company to expand.

The IRB approval came with the stipulation that Max Aerostructures has 60 jobs with an average salary of $42,500 within five years.

Purcell says the company will come close to achieving that within a year or two.

On Friday, the company expects to close on the acquisition of an existing aircraft supplier with about 20 employees and a customer base that will come with the deal.

“Part of it is … to have some customer relationships established while we try to kind of build this thing and then go from there,” Purcell says.

“We’ve already done a lot of work … in terms of touching base with customers, letting them know these are the individuals that are back in the business under this name now,” he says. “They’re very excited about the things that we’re offering them and the plans we have for this business.”

Purcell says commercial production rates are going up and “there’s definitely a need for other high-performance suppliers in the industry.”

“What we’ve seen as a management team over the years is that customers have high expectations of their supply base in terms of being able to deliver quality parts on time,” he says. “The different element that we plan to bring with Max Aerostructures is … that full customer experience in terms of building a relationship from the beginning …and then be able to take care of them from there.”

Purcell says the new building, which Bombardier will vacate soon, means Max Aerostructures starts with a platform to begin work immediately.

He says the company will “have full machining capabilities.”

“Having the capability of a chemical processing line and a heat-treat facility within this building allows us to take a purchase order from a customer and really control that process from start to finish.”

Casey Voegeli, Birds Eye Holdings principal, says the partners are “an incredible group of guys.”

“It felt like a no-brainer when all these guys are willing to do this together,” he says.

Purcell says that working again with the Voegelis “was obviously of great interest to the group.”

“We knew what we were getting into. We knew what kind of people they are. How they view business, how they view aerospace. It really is something that we all think alike in terms of our approach to business and the industry.”

Purcell says walking around a facility where whole planes have been produced is inspiring to the partners in Max Aerostructures.

“With this building having a history of building airplanes, we can really … not limit ourselves in terms of the possibilities of what we can do,” he says.

“Let’s not dream small. Let’s dream big. … There’s no limits and bounds of what we can do here.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers