Gulfstream announces $500 million project, 1,000 new jobs

By Don Logana - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Gulfstream Aerospace is expanding again. Monday morning, the company announced its half-billion dollar plan, which will mean 1,000 new employees.

However, there were not very many answers for those looking for some. Instead, we got a bit of a big tease.

Gulfstream's president, Joe Lombardo, refused to give specific details about what they will be building, if they have partners, and no time-line was given.

We do know they will start with 50 acres of land, build a new maintenance facility, renovate other buildings and hire at least 1,000 more people. While the country still feels the effects of a tough economy, Gulfstream sees opportunity.

"We are making this investment because we know we are going to be here for the future," Lombardo told WTOC.

Lombardo echoed those comments to 4,000 employees just minutes earlier, at the company's big event announcement.

Along with General Dynamics CEO, Jay Johnson, Lombardo announced Gulfstream's presence in the Coastal Empire will be expanding, pointing to growth in general aviation and positive signs for the industry.

He says their sales trends and market forecasts suggest an economic upturn over the next ten years, plus, demand for their planes is increasing, with the last few months seeing the most orders for their jets since mid-2008.

"It's expanded. We are not just doing business in North America. We are doing business all over the world," Lombardo said. "We have confidence in the industry and confidence in the market place."

More than a year ago, Gulfstream was hit hard by the economy, including employee furloughs and some layoffs.

"We know we have been through some pretty tough times, but right now, we are having a pretty decent year," Lombardo said.

Lombardo says, across the board, revenues, deliveries and orders are all up.

Now, Gulfstream has decided to invest once again. After leasing 160 acres of land from the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport, it will sink 500 million dollars over the next seven years into building a new aviation manufacturing and maintenance facility. WTOC is told it *could* involve a partnership with Rolls Royce on engine production and possibly even see Gulfstream begin building its own wings.

With 1,000 jobs created, Lombardo says there will be ripple effect with new construction, as local contractors will be used. As for the jobs, some engineers have been hired with positions available for production specialists, engineers and support technicians.

Gulfstream's last massive expansion was 2006, which started out at $300 million and 1,000 jobs. The project ended up costing $400 million. Like that project, Governor Sonny Perdue believes this project may end up bigger than what it is now.

"I think they are being conservative again and it shows the confidence, as Governor, I got confidence that Gulfstream will exceed our expectations just as they exceed their customers expectations," Perdue told WTOC.

The land along Airways Avenue, beyond the corporate logos as you eneter the aiport, is now vacant. Soon, it will be home to Gulfstream's newest buildings.

"Quite frankly, if you look at our demand alone, on what's going to be happening, we are going to be able to fill these facilities up pretty easily," Lombardo said.

But with what? Gulfstream president Joe Lombardo tells WTOC more announcements will be coming as construction is completed.

"We have given about as much detail as we can at the moment and I ask that you respect the fact that as we move forward, this company has a history of advancing products and services and will continue to do so," Lombardo said.

He says Gulfstream and General Dynamics began planning this project about two years ago, even during a downturn in business. Lombardo says, even though lawmakers were criticizing the use of private jets, the attitude towards aviation has taken a more positive turn.

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