Bell Helicopter’s decision to cut 1,100 jobs from its global workforce will not affect the company’s plans to hire 115 employees at a helicopter assembly plant now under construction at Lafayette Regional Airport, a company official said Tuesday.
The job cuts at Bell were announced Tuesday, along with disappointing first-quarter financial results.
The Lafayette plant, located on 14.5 acres of airport-owned land near U.S. 90, remains under construction.
“In spite of the softening medium helicopter market, we have 350 orders for the 505 Jet Ranger X and are still projected to meet our production targets,” Sylvestre said.
“This week’s announcement for reductions in force for Bell Helicopter’s global operations will not change our plans for our Lafayette facility or prevent us from meeting our commitments to Louisiana for hiring and local spending,” he said from Textron’s Providence, Rhode Island headquarters.
Bell, one of nine Textron Inc. divisions, has 8,700 employees worldwide.
Sylvestre said most of the 1,100 job cuts would be at manufacturing plants in Fort Worth and Amarillo, Texas, and in Mirabel, Québec.
“For Louisiana, though we will certainly see the impact across all parts of the business, we are continuing to invest record levels in our new development programs, including the Bell 505” that will be built in Lafayette, Sylvestre said.
Bell Helicopter and Louisiana officials in December 2013 announced an agreement to build a plant in Lafayette that would produce the five-seat, single-engine 505 Jet Ranger X, part of the company’s Short, Light, Single — or SLS — line of choppers.
The officials, which included Gov. Bobby Jindal and Bell CEO John Garrison, said 115 workers hired by Bell would earn salaries averaging $55,000 a year plus benefits. They said the plant would lead to another 136 indirect full-time jobs.
For its part, Louisiana gave Bell $7.8 million in performance-based grants for lease support, infrastructure and equipment. The state also gave Bell $200,000 to relocate some employees, and agreed to provide the company access to Louisiana workforce development programs.
Louisiana is also funding construction of the 82,300-square-foot, $26 million-plus assembly plant, which will be owned by the Lafayette Airport.
Bell agreed to spend $11.4 million on equipment.
In addition to the financial help, Lafayette’s location in the heart of Gulf of Mexico oil and gas operations played a part in sealing the deal: Bell will produce ready-to-fly aircraft near three major helicopter purchasers — PHI Inc., ERA Helicopters LLC and Bristow Group Inc.
Lafayette Airport Commission member Paul Guilbeau said the Bell facility would be dedicated in a June ceremony. Guilbeau did not have a timetable for when Bell would start hiring employees. A message left on Airport Director Steve Picou’s cell phone was not immediately returned Tuesday.
In a statement released Tuesday, Bell officials described the 1,100 planned layoffs as necessary “measures to proactively align our cost structure with current and projected business requirements, and ensure our products and services remain affordable.”
The company said managers and front-line employees in all areas of the company would be affected.
First-quarter revenue for Bell was $813 million, down $60 million compared to the first three months of 2014, according to financial results the company posted Tuesday.